A reader kindly sent me a digitized copy of Of Human Seed, a fascinating short film from the early 1960s about prenatal abdominal decompression (YouTube video embedded below).
It was filmed at the Obstetrics Unit of University College Hospital London by arrangement with its Director, Professor W. C. W. Nixon, CBE (1903 – 1966).
The film is undated, but since O. S. Heyns D.Sc. first published his research into abdominal decompression in 1959 (Abdominal Decompression in the First Stage of Labor, BJOG Volume 66 Issue 2, April 1959), and Professor Nixon died in 1966, we can fairly safely date this film to the early sixties.
The black-and-white footage runs just under 16 minutes in length, and includes some footage of actual childbirth — but there’s nothing too gruesome or alarming in it (I’m pretty squeamish about seeing medical procedures, but I didn’t have any issues watching it).
Perhaps more shocking to contemporary audiences is the language of the period — the narrator uses terms that are generally considered pejorative today, such as “spastics” and “the mentally retarded.” It’s important to understand the historical context of their use.
The first 5 minutes or so are a general introduction to human fertilization and gestation, and some of the problems that can occur if the foetus does not receive an adequate oxygen supply. Decompression therapy, and its potential benefits, are introduced around the 5 min 40 second mark:
There are some credits at the end of the film, as follows:
Filmed at University College Hospital, London, by special arrangement and by kind permission of Professor W.C.W. Nixon
Introduced by Antony Roberts
Directed by Bill Taylor
Produced by Robert Brandon-Kirby